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A South Korean court ordered the removal of a respirator from a comatose patient Friday, saying the "meaningless" extension of life was against the patient's right to die with dignity.

The decision marks the first court ruling of its kind in South Korea.

The 76-year-old patient, identified only by her surname, Kim, has been in a permanent, vegetative coma since suffering brain damage in February.

Her family filed a lawsuit after doctors refused to end her life. Her children claim their mother had always opposed keeping people alive on machines when there is no chance of revival.

The court accepted the argument.

"Doctors have the obligation to comply with a patient's demand for the removal of a respirator in case it is meaningless to extend life, and if it serves more for the dignity and value as a human being (for the patient) to die spontaneously," Seoul Western District Court said in the ruling.

The court said there are enough indications to assume the patient would have wanted to be removed from the respirator if she knew of her condition. Doctors at major hospitals in Seoul agree that Kim has no chance of revival and could live as long as three or four months, the ruling said.

The court cautioned, however, that the ruling does not deal with "proactive euthanasia" and does not mean that family members have the right to independently ask to end medical treatment for loved ones.


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